Monday, May 23, 2011

Sigourney Weaver speaks . . . okay, she reads

"Secretly, I had always wanted to go to Vegas, and have my own really bad act!" — Sigourney Weaver

WELL, Sigourney, I think you accomplished your goal, albeit here in Des Moines, not Las Vegas.

Sigourney Weaver was the last of the Smart Talk speakers for this season, and I hate to say it, but she did a bad job. It was apparent that she'd written out her speech word for word, and her 'talk' was actually a read. For the first quarter of it or so when she spoke about more personal things like growing up, high school, college and how her life evolved and led to acting — she was more relaxed, and it was reasonably interesting. 

Goal met right here in Des Moines.

She said she grew up feeling different than everyone else, in no small measure because she actually was; she was almost as tall as she is now when she was eleven years old. Most teenagers tend toward the gangly and awkward, but because of her height, she was that in spades.

Her given name was actually Susan, but she didn't feel like a "Susan" so she changed it to Sigourney, a name she came across in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great GatsbyI can relate! I didn't feel like a "Kay", so in my late 20s I became a "Kelly." I'll tell that story another day; it's a pretty good one.

And I definitely get being spellbound by The Great Gatsby, at least the movie version. I had never been a Robert Redford fan, so I didn't see the movie when it was out in the theaters, but when it was on TV — what the heck, it wasn't going to cost me anything to watch.

The joke was on me. The combination of Bob's looks and the character he played was too much for me, and I fell right over the edge. I was 1000% smitten! The end of the movie proved too thrilling to bear, and I found myself in such a state of anxiety that I was compelled to turn it off because I couldn't stand to see Bob/Gatsby spurned or fail. But then I couldn't stand not knowing what was happening so I ran to the phone and 'phoned a friend' also watching the movie, who filled me in. He was still okay, so it was safe to turn it back on, but again I couldn't stand it and turned it off and so on and so on! 

Holy crap, you get my point, right?

I retained a major crush on Bob until the British version of Pride and Prejudice (the real version as far as I'm concerned, not your butchered, muddled up, out-of-sequence, lame American version) starring Colin Firth as the inimitable Mr. Darcy, at which point I threw over Bob and went full-tilt gaga over Colin — me and about a million other women!

Speaking of crushes, Mollie Cooney was the moderator for this particular Smart Talk presentation and admitted that her husband Kevin has confessed to her that Sigourney Weaver is the only woman in the world that Mollie would ever be in danger of losing him to. I can relate; as long as Colin Firth doesn't come calling, Paul is safe.

Oh yeah, uh huh.

Another interesting tidbit about Sigourney: after she graduated from Stanford University as an English major, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University School of Drama where she was told by her teachers that she had no talent and would never make it as an actor. Ha! She showed them.

After that fairly brief part telling us about her life, Sigourney began speaking about the need to save the planet and how we can help do that. She told us she was glad to be speaking to women because women by nature are the care-takers, nurturers and conservers of resources. I wrote down this quote down from her on my program, "What's good for women is good for the planet."

I've heard respected international NGO workers say that if you improve the lives of women wherever they are, you improve the lives of children and families, as well as society in general. Sigourney also quoted Gloria Steinem's famous line, "The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." Once again, I can relate!! I feel constantly pissed off by the treatment of women around the world. (I had originally titled my post from Saturday, May 14 as "The state of being pissed off," but toned it down.)

During the first part, Sigourney had been trying to only glance at her script, but by this point she gave up altogether and just full out read, and the closer she got to the end, the faster and faster and faster she went. Maybe she just wanted out of there. I think she might have actually been taken aback a bit when she came out on stage by how large an audience she had. From her reaction, I don't think she was expecting quite that many people. The place was full to the rafters — at least as big a crowd, probably bigger actually, as any show on Broadway.

Note to Sigourney and anyone who makes an appearance in unfamiliar geography: if you plan to make reference to a town in the area, definitely check with a local to get the correct pronunciation. She mentioned some of the environmental projects taking place at Des Moines Area Community College in AahnKENey, and a great deal of tittering ensued.

I know Matty will be disappointed in my take on Sigourney's presentation because he's a big fan of hers, but probably glad to hear that it didn't lessen my respect for her because I don't conflate her presentation with her. It was obvious that she didn't want to waste the opportunity to make a difference in the world, took her participation seriously, worked hard on it and in fairness, she provided lots of good information. Unfortunately I believe many in the audience felt lectured at (although I didn't) and were offended, because when her speaking, er . . . reading was done and the audience question and answer segment was about to start, more than a few women got up and left. Quite a lot actually. I was embarrassed for Des Moines and for her.

In some ways it was a good lesson. Whenever I have a speaking gig, I'm always tempted to write everything down word for word, and Paul always tells me, "No no. Just write down a few key words."  I'm getting better at it, but I can remember plenty of times when I spent hours and hours of prep time in order to be ever so well-researched, each word carefully chosen, and then not had enough time to rehearse the delivery adequately to be able to just talk. There you go, one more way in which I can relate. Who knew we had SO much in common?! We must be twins. 

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